Not a crowd person.
I’ve been meeting a lot of new people lately, which is, for an introvert, a mixed blessing. I enjoy meeting good people, but I’ve been in several crowds lately. For an introvert, that’s a challenge.
As a friend pointed out, I’m both an introvert and shy. They aren’t interchangeable. The best explanation of the difference between introverts and extroverts I’ve ever seen: Extroverts get energized by being around people. Introverts spend energy to be around people, then have to be alone to recharge. I like people (well, I like kind people), but after a while, I have to be alone to recharge.
It has nothing to do with liking people or not. My batteries just get tapped out.
I’ve always been an introvert. Extroverted friends complain about being alone too often. They get bored and lonely. Left to my own devices, I grab a book, or paint, or any number of things. If an extrovert is with you, he might just want to be with someone. If I’m with you, I want to be with you, specifically. It’ll cost me, but I think it’s worth it.
There are more extroverts in the population at any given time than introverts, which makes sense. If the species tended more toward introverts, how would enough of us get out and find mates to keep humanity going? But extroverts can find it difficult to understand introverts.
Mark had a cousin who was a dear lady and an extrovert to her toenails. She was, as my Mom would have said, a “Y’all come” sort. Extroverts can not only handle unexpected company, they may welcome it. Introverts like to know what’s coming, socially, so we can be ready. Mark’s cousin welcomed us into her family circle, invited us to their summer gathering in the woods. Like I say, she was a sweetheart and I really enjoyed her. We rented a cabin nearby, but not too nearby, so I could get some alone time when all the togetherness was too much. As she welcomed us, she said, “Everybody does whatever they want. Relax and enjoy yourself!”
One day,I needed some of that alone time. It was great playing board games, swimming, hanging out with the family, but my battery needed charging. I was looking forward to it, with a new book to read and a really good grilled cheese sandwich to eat. Mark’s cousin (let’s call her Cathy) decided she wanted to take a drive to visit another relative. Extroverts like to do things with groups of people, as a rule, so she was getting up a group and invited me. I declined, politely, and explained I was looking forward to reading my book…
“But… are you all right,” Cathy asked.
“I’m fine,” I assured her. “I just need some time alone and a book.”
Cathy looked alarmed. “Did someone say something to you? Did somebody hurt your feelings? Who was it?”
Confused, I shook my head. “No, Cathy, I’m fine. Nobody insulted me. I just want to read my book.”
“Come with us,” she said, “you’ll feel better.”
“I feel fine, Cathy. I just want…”
She grabbed my arm. “We’ll have fun. Some fresh air and a nice drive and you’ll feel great.”
“I feel great now. I would just feel greater with my book.”
I told her gently, but firmly, that I wasn’t mad at anyone, I just wanted to spend some time with a grilled cheese sandwich and a book. With that, I left for the lodge, picked up my sandwich, and headed for the cabin.
A car drove by the cabin, then it was quiet. My sandwich smelled delicious, buttery and golden brown. My mouth watered. Just as I cracked the book open, there was a knock on the door.
There stood Cathy, some of our relatives peering at me from her car. “Cathy,” I said cautiously, “what’s going on?”
“We came to pick you up,” she said with a bright smile.
“But I told you…”
“Oh, I know,” she said, “and I know you don’t want to tell me what’s wrong and that’s fine, but I can’t enjoy myself knowing you’re here alone and miserable!”
“I won’t be miserable,” I said as patiently as I could. “My sandwich is getting cold.”
“Bring it with you!”
“I don’t want to,” I told Cathy. “I want to read my book. Have a good time and I’ll see you when you get back.”
She took my arm. “Come on…”
“No,” I said, pulling free. Before she could object again, I stopped her. “Didn’t you say everybody does whatever they want here?”
“What you meant was that everybody does whatever you want, didn’t you?”
She laughed. “Yes.”
I ushered her toward her car. “Have a good time. I’ll see you later. I’m going to be right here for the next couple of hours, eating my cold sandwich and reading. I’m an introvert, Cathy, and I need some time alone. If I don’t I’ll have to kill someone.”
She accepted it and left, but really didn’t understand. The next day she asked me if I was all right and was I sure nobody had hurt my feelings. But it came from wanting me to be happy, so I just took it that way and assured her I was okay.
Extroverts have trouble understanding how being introverted works. It doesn’t mean that we don’t go out, or socialize. If we want to do something enough, we will. If we want to be around you, we will. Then we’ll go home and recharge.
This weekend, I went up to total strangers at a rally and asked them if they’d like a free “Safe Harbor” pin. The idea of going to a huge rally by myself and walking around talking to strangers made me nervous, but it was something I believed in and decided to do. I met some lovely people, all very different, but nice, people who were there peacefully protesting and standing up for things they believe in with dignity and good humor. I enjoyed meeting every one of them, and I’m glad so many people showed up, and conducted themselves so well. It was great to be a small part of such a huge movement, and I hope the people who marched stay aware and involved.
And now, time to recharge.